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What are Overused Words Anyway?

The ProWritingAid Team
ProWritingAid: A grammar guru, style editor, and writing mentor in one package.
Published Jan 13, 2016

What are Overused Words?

Substitute 'damn' every time you're inclined to write 'very'; your editor will delete it and the writing will be just as it should be. - Mark Twain

We think Mark Twain was right. Some words have been used so often that they’ve become meaningless. When writing, you should strive for vivid words that accurately convey your meaning. Let’s look at some examples:

Mia opened the door and shivered. It was cold outside.

Mia opened the door and shivered. It was very cold outside.

The word “very” adds little to the reader’s understanding. In fact, it makes the writing sound amateurish.

Charlie filled his bucket with sand and then made a castle.

Charlie filled his bucket with sand and made a castle.

Likewise, the word “then” is overused and unnecessary. The sentence above works better without it:

I thought the book was good; it was really interesting.

This book grabbed my attention and kept me turning the pages until the final line.

The first sentence is full of overused words: thought/good/really/interesting. In the second example we have replaced those tired, overused words with less common ones.

When we speak, we tend to use overused words frequently, but in your text, you want to be more explicit and original with your phrasing. Some of the most common overused words include it/there, have/had, maybe, just/then, watch/notice/observe, nice/great, knew/know and feel/felt/feeling. They are nothing words. Everyone has said and heard them a million times. Everybody “knows” things. Everybody “feels” things. Try to avoid these crutches and express your ideas with more meaningful and fresh words.

Use the Overused Words report to measure your usage of commonly overused words and compare it to published texts. It will highlight all of the overused words in your text. We’re, of course, not suggesting that you need to replace all of them; rather, they just require a little extra re-examination to make sure that they are your best option. You can also add your own particular words that you know you overuse to help break bad habits.

Note: our users sometimes confuse our “Overused Words Check” with our “Repeats Check”. Overused words are those used so often in published works, that their meaning is obfuscated. The Repeats Check catches instances when you use the same word or phrase several times in the span of a few paragraphs.

For more information about the Repeats Check, read What is the Repeats Check? And How Did I Not Notice My Repetitions?

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The ProWritingAid Team
ProWritingAid: A grammar guru, style editor, and writing mentor in one package.

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